Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Cow town

We are at the Elks lodge in Clovis, New Mexico (map).

Yesterday was another fairly short day on the road, for no other reason than that we had a conference call last night, and we wanted to be certain we were someplace with good cell phone coverage. Clovis is the largest town we'll see until Albuquerque.

We first tried the Wal-Mart on the north side of town, two and a half miles off our route. We passed it up, though, because there were no out-of-the-way corners in that lot, and we'd have to park square in the middle of the lot, which was heavily trafficked. So we came here.

It's an OK spot, and for a $5 donation we got a 20-amp power outlet. But the whole town reeks of manure, and we only got analog cell service anyway (I had five bars of digital coverage at the Wal-Mart, in a newer part of town). I was a bit sorry that we passed up the free parking behind the New Mexico Visitor Center a dozen miles or so back, in Texico. I'm pretty sure we'd have had good cell coverage there, and they had free WiFi, which would have made the on-line part of our teleconference smoother (the software struggles with the delay on our satellite connection).

We made the best of the stop, though, and walked over to K-Bob's Steak House for dinner. K-Bob's is now a chain, but it started right here in Clovis. We're told the current building is not the original, though. The food was tasty and reasonably priced, and they had a nice salad bar.

We have another teleconference Thursday evening, and this time I will be the "host." As such, I'll need lower-latency high-speed access than our satellite can deliver, and so we are committed to be in Albuquerque, at a park with high-speed Internet of some sort. That will put us somewhere around Vaughn tonight.


  1. Sean,
    We were going to try Skye this fall & winter in the southwest, as our Canadian cell phone co. really hosed us last time. We do have Hughes with a tripod setup,is the data delay the main problem?

  2. I was stationed at Cannon AFB in Clovis from 74 to 79 and grew to love clovis and portales. still have lifelong friends there. the people are great. if you have never been to a dairy farm, they have a zillion of them there, go find one and ask for a tour.

    tom in mesa, az

  3. @Kelly -- I probably was not clear in this post. We were using normal cell phones for the voice portion of the call; the bit about Internet access had to do with the visual part of the conference, using AT&T Webmeeting.

    That said, we do have Skype, and we use it occasionally on the satellite when we have no cell coverage. There are really two problems:

    1. Delay. In addition to all the normal packet delays you get using this kind of VOIP, making it barely usable on normal high-speed lines, there is the half-second satellite propagation delay. "Round trip," that ends up being a full second, and the only way you can carry on a conversation is to say "over" every time you finish speaking, so the other party knows they can start talking, just like in those B-movies depicting the old days of two-way radio.

    2. Uplink bandwidth. Consumer HughesNet is high-speed down, but low-to-medium speed up. This means you'll hear the other side fine, but they may have trouble hearing you, including extra delay and/or choppy audio, as if every few syllables, one gets "lost." So you need to speak in short bursts, to let the other party acknowledge whether they copied you or not. Again, like a poor radio link.

    This problem is not unique to Skype. All consumer VOIP solutions have the same limitations on HughesNet. We used to use a service, now discontinued, that had some optimization for satellite connections, but, alas, no one seems to be doing that anymore.



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